Dita Von Teese embarks on tour with 'creme-de-la-creme of burlesque'

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |  April 25, 2018 at 6:00 AM
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April 25 (UPI) -- Queen of Burlesque Dita Von Teese said her new tour, kicking off in Florida, will be the biggest show "in the history of burlesque."

Von Teese, born Heather Renee Sweet, kicks off her Dita Von Teese and the Copper Coupe tour Wednesday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theatre.

"If you haven't been to a burlesque show, this is the burlesque show to see," Von Teese told UPI in an interview. "It is the biggest touring burlesque show in the history of burlesque."

The tour features burlesque performers from all over the world, including Gia Genevieve, Ginger Valentine, Jett Adore and Zelia Rose. The show also features the work of Vontourage dancers Alek Palinski and Elio Martinez, as well as comedian Jonny McGovern.

"I cast people from all over the world, it's really the creme-de-la-creme of burlesque," Von Teese said. "It's a fun variety show and it will definitely change your mind about what striptease can be."

She said the show includes her first-ever group number.

"People have never seen this in burlesque before, so I'm really excited for people to see it," she said.

Von Teese, who began performing burlesque striptease dancing in the 1990s and is widely credited with popularizing the art form for modern audiences, said she wanted the new show to reflect the diversity of burlesque's performers and fandom.

"This show and the cast that I tour with has become known for the diversity in beauty and age and ethnicity and body shape and gender ideals," she said.

Von Teese said such diversity has led to audience demographics that burlesque newcomers might find surprising, including the fact that the audience is predominantly female.

"I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that you won't really find a group of straight males there to ogle chicks, a lot of women are very inspired by this kind of show that represents beauty and sensuality in more ways than we're used to seeing in modern media," Von Teese said.

She said there are plenty of surprises in the show for her longtime fans as well, including a new version of her "infamous martini glass" dance inspired by vodka brand Absolut Elyx, which partnered with Von Teese for the tour.

She said the tour marks the first time she has done a brand collaboration.

"I've always been reluctant to do that because I don't like brand collaborations that don't make sense," Von Teese said. She said the brand's aesthetic is what drew her to the project.

"They have this beautiful branding that is so elegant and sophisticated and gorgeous," she said. The new version of the martini glass is the tour's titular "Copper Coupe," a large cocktail glass rendered in Absolute Elyx's signature rose-gold copper.

Another highlight of the new show is a giant lipstick that Von Teese rides on stage for her opening number, Lipteese. She said the massive lipstick is "probably the biggest prop I've ever brought on tour before."

Designer costumes

Von Teese said she collaborated with a number of different designers to create her outfits for the show, including famed shoe designer Christian Louboutin.

"A lot of people know me for my early beginnings as a fetish model, so I decided to make the ultimate fetish act, and the costume is really slick and unlike anything anybody's ever seen before," she said.

Louboutin's contribution was what Von Teese described as "the ultimate pair of fetishistic boots."

"They're crotch high with Swarovski-crystallized Victorian-style buttons all the way up the sides and red-crystallized soles and diamond spurs on the back," she said.

The boots are a tribute to fetish artist John Willie, who published Bizarre magazine in the 1930s and 40s.

"These boots are kind of his drawings come to life," she said.

Von Teese said that aside from "walking in those boots with the spurs and not kicking myself in the butt while I do it," her most complicated routine in the new show is a striptease performed with an elaborate costume.

The performer said she prides herself on pulling off elaborate and complicated stripteases in her burlesque dances.

"I've never been like this amazing dancer, so I always sort of loved the drama of the wardrobe and very complicated wardrobe and how with each piece that gets removed it becomes a different look -- like a new picture, a new visual," she said.

She said her most complicated costume in the performance was about a year in the making and features 70 pounds worth of Aurora Borealis Crystal.

A similar costume she wore for a Paris performance captured the attention of French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who attended one of her shows and asked if he could come backstage and view the costume.

Von Teese said she also collaborated with designer Jenny Packham for the tour, which includes music from Andrew Armstrong of Monarchy and Sebastien Tellier.

Dita Von Teese album

Tellier wrote and produced Von Teese's self-titled album, released earlier this year.

Von Teese said her creative relationship with Tellier began when she invited him to one of her shows a few years ago.

"I invited him to my show and then two years later, just out of nowhere, I got this email from his record label telling me that he wrote an entire record for me," she said.

She said she was initially skeptical of the offer, as she doesn't see herself as a singer.

"I gave him the disclaimer that maybe I wasn't the right person for the record, but he told me that the record wouldn't work with a singer, and that he wrote it for me," she said.

Von Teese said she doesn't plan to quit her day job, but thought it was a great opportunity to have the iconic French artist do something like this for her.

She said she and Tellier recently completed work on a short film with director David Wilson that serves as a music video for three of the songs from the record.

Von Teese said there have been rumblings about the possibility of touring with Tellier to promote the album.

"I don't think anybody's going to come to hear my incredible vocal talents, but what I can do is create a stunning visual show with live music," she said. "I'll sing the parts that I can sing, I'll maybe not sing the parts I can't sing. Kind of like a lot of other artists out there that can't sing certain parts of their own songs live."

Aleister Von Teese

Von Teese said she is being supported emotionally on her tour by her longtime traveling companion, feline Instagram star Aleister Von Teese. She said the cat has fully recovered from undergoing surgery in January, a bulla osteotomy procedure for a polyp in his ear.

Von Teese said Aleister is a "super cat" and was ready to come home from the vet on the evening of the surgery.

"It was a little bit scary to me, but he had a really fast recovery, I couldn't believe it. I was super, super grateful, because I was really, really afraid, because he is my little shining star," she said.

She said Aleister is uniquely adapted to life on the road.

"I love this cat, he's been with me all over the world, he used to live with me in Paris, we just got back from our log cabin yesterday, he loves to go in the car, he loves to go on the plane, he loves to be in hotels, it's really -- it's like a dog cat. It's a dog in a cat suit," she joked.

Dita Von Teese and the Golden Coupe kicks off Wednesday night in Miami before embarking on a nationwide tour. Tickets for the tour are on sale now.

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